Review by David Moore
Night 3 of the ballpark tour, this time at the Astros Single A field.
First and foremost, it is almost embarrasing to see the small turnout at
these shows! Columbus held 15,000, with Lexington only holding 6,000...
yet both shows were only in the 3,000 - 4,000 attendance range at best. I
think that the biggest problem is lack of advertisement or promotion of
the shows (I hope). Surely the time hasn't come yet (nor will it ever)
when Dylan can only draw 3,000 people on a Retro Tour! I encourage
everybody to get out there and to please support Bobby, he deserves it...
and should be drawing better crowds than this! Like I said, it's almost
Elana James once again started everything off on the right foot, with an
incredible set. This lady has incredible talent, and simply radiates from
the stage. I was suprised to see her mix her setlist up to the extent
that she did compared to the previous night, although she is promoting a
newly released CD. Absent was her "Cotton Eyed Joe", yet a nice "Orange
Blossom Special" made up for that.
I'll admit that I'll not a big Junior Brown or Jimmie Vaughn fan, yet I
endured the sets the best I could! Junior actually plays one hell of a
guitar, if he would just keep his mouth shut (which he won't). A big
thanks goes out to Dylanologist Joyce, who helped me stay awake during
these rough times, and who was nice enough to give me a piece of paper to
track the setlist. Thanks!
Also, I gotta say that Security at this venue was much cooler than
Columbus. Not that they let the crowd run wild, yet they weren't overly
harrassing people and generally bringing everybody down like in Columbus.
Bobby's set was terrific, and as usual, tonight he was pimped out in a
nice black suit, white shirt & tie, and the black cowboy hat to top it off
(not counting the glare of the diamonds adorning all his fingers, or his
Grammy displayed on stage with it's own spotlight... Bobby's the ultimate
smart-ass!). He, along with the entire band was simply "ON" tonight.
There was a marked improvement from Sunday night's show, the band as a
whole hit their grooves to the max. Maybe it took them until the 3rd
night to really get it all together, and I can only imagine what the rest
of the Tour will sound like.
"Maggie's Farm" to start of course, leading into a great "The Times They
Are A-Changin'". Bobby's been getting ripped on this song lately, but if
you heard what I heard tonight... you'd come back to reality really quick!
They hit it perfectly, with an awesome arrangement. A classic
performance of a truly classic piece.
"Lonesome Day Blues" came next, catching me off guard for some reason.
Bobby's been pulling out a lot of "Love & Theft" material lately, but it
did fit in nicely after "Times"... no complaints. This led into a nice
rolling "Stuck In Mobile", jacking the tempo back up, along with the
intensity of the crowd. For an average song (at best), he sure can make
this song a live masterpiece. Such is Bobby's gift...
Things start to get real interesting now with "Love Sick", just a great
tune to hear live. Bobby sounded great, a really awesome performance
(hope he pulls it out more!). That merged into "Watching The River Flow",
which kinda caught me off guard again. I barely knew the song from some
various Greatest Hits CD along the way, yet the live performance was
beautiful indeed. This was a night where one stellar song/performance
kept rolling into the next, with no real weak spots. Could the setlist
have been better in my humble opinion? Well yes of course, yet what he
was nice enough to play for us was really something special.
A few acoustic strums signaled "Desolation Row", and the place just
erupted. Always a fan favorite, and Bobby surely didn't disappoint on this
one. Maybe a word here or there... but hell... it's "Desolation Row"! Just a
fabulous performance, we're all lucky to have been part of it. Next came
good old "Highway 61 Revisited", all rocked out as is the currrent standard.
Another great example of a piece where the current live musical
arrangement really adds something positive to the song.
We continue on with "Forever Young", with Bobby giving a really great
vocal performance. This kinda slowed things down a bit for the crowd,
only to be hit with "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" next! I
personally love Bobby's new direction with this song, and it will always
remain a fan favorite regardless of it's format. He didn't fluff a single
word (which you gotta admit is impressive), but he has been eliminating a
middle verse for some reason.
So here we are after 10 songs, already blasted in the stratsophere from
what we've heard so far, when a few initial acoustic strums indicate
"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right". It's hard to pick a highlight on a
night like this... but this could have easily been it! Just an
off-the-wall performance and arrangement of an incredibly wonderful
overlooked song. This led to the final pre-encore song, "Summer Days".
This was decent, but simply couldn't stack up with some of the heavies
already thrown at us. Still no songs played from the forthcoming "Modern
Times" album, I suppose that will be it's own seperate Tour later in the
Standard encores of "Like A Rolling Stone" & "All Along The Watchtower",
as if he was contractually bound to play these two songs every single
night he plays. Bobby honestly played and sang them both brilliantly, yet
how many times do I need to keep getting these same two songs. Just a
thought... a little more randomness on the encores!
Coming from a critical Dylan fanatic, this show gets the highest possible
rating! Once again the setlist could always be a little better in
theory... but the strength of the performance for what he gives you is top
notch. Every song kept me entranced... which I honestly couldn't say at
the show before in Columbus. I do think that the band as a whole is
certainly hitting their groove more and more as the shows roll on, and I
expect some hot stuff to come down the line as the tour unfolds.
Review by Jeff Kurtzman
Either the time in Europe or the time off before this leg of the tour was
very kind to Bob and this band. I went to 6 or 7 shows over the last
couple years with the current lineup and I have to say this show was
musically the best I've seen them perform. Every song was full of energy
and spirit. Bob was in good voice and sang more clearly and melodically
than I've heard recently. George and Tony were solid as always but the
most improved performance goes to Denny Freeman. While his solos were
often still enjoyablyspare, he seemed much more comfortable and willing to
go all out to achieve the heights of passion in his performance.
Highlights for me included raucous, bluesy Lonesome Day Blues, especially
when Bob seemed to connect with the audience on the line "I'm gonna spare
the defeated, I'm going to speak to the crowd." "Stuck Inside of Mobile"
was energetic and confident. "Desolation Row" was majestic and beautiful
descending guitar figures from Denny were complimented by similar ones on
the organ from Bob. Bob's organ playing throughout the night was
atmospheric and swirling. There was no "noodling" as sometimes heard
earlier this year. "Highway 61" rocked as hard and as long as some of the
versions produced in the days of Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton. "Don't
Think Twice" was also great---it sounded a little fuller and more
integrated that some other times. I especially enjoyed Bob's staccato
delivery of some of the lines. The encores of Like A Rolling Stone and
"All Along the Watchtower" hit the audience like an angry squall of hard
rock. Great solos from Denny and tremendously powerful drumming by George
really reinvigorated these standards. Bob sang the former like the scored
lover had left him that very night and the latter as if directly
addressing the politicians whose policies have led to "the hour getting
late." I wish I was going to be able to go the rest of the shows this week
but work calls and I'll have to wait til the next go 'round. Bob and the
band, though, are definitely worth a visit right now.
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